Early on in this election, when Donald Trump was still a novelty, the political press did an admirable job being shocked by his ignorance, offensiveness, and recklessness. Those days may be behind us. With each passing day, the campaign press corps and affiliated media outlets, appear less and less capable of reporting on Trump’s candidacy in ways that reflect the dangers it poses.

Is this a structural problem? Will it fall to Hillary Clinton’s campaign to keep Trump’s unique threat to civic norms in focus? And if so, will the debates be her last-best chance to force that message into public consciousness?

James Fallows, The Atlantic’s national correspondent, has undertaken a detailed pre-game analysis of presidential debates every four years going back to 2000. In 1996, he wrote a comprehensive criticism of the media in his book called Breaking the News, whose lessons are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. He joins us this week to discuss the campaign, the coming debates, and whether Trump exploded into public consciousness just as the country was prepared to turn the corner on his brand of politics.  

Further Reading:

  • Jim Fallows analyzes the candidates’ debating strengths and weaknesses in his latest cover story for The Atlantic.
  • For The Atlantic’s website, Fallows writes a running chronicle of Trump’s norm-shattering campaign called the Trump Time Capsule
  • In the New Republic, Brian Beutler argues that the media lacks the proper tool kit to punish a candidate who threatens democratic values, unless the value at stake is freedom of the press.